So where do I start?
With things that freeze well and are great to bring out when unexpected guests drop by. That means candy. And since there's really no baking involved, they're perfect for our less-than-desirable December weather.
The two things at the top of my list, peanut clusters (you can find that recipe here) and peanut butter balls.
Today we're making peanut butter balls. I've seen them called all kinds of names--buckeyes, chestnuts, peanut butter bon-bons.... I prefer chestnuts, because that's what they look like to me. Call them what you like, they're still peanut butter balls. And they're super easy. All you really need is a little bit of time.
- 1 1/2 lb. (that's 5 1/4 cups) sifted powdered sugar
- 1 lb. peanut butter (smooth, crunchy, whatever you like)
- 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 lb. (2 sticks) butter or margarine (My personal preference for this recipe is margarine. It makes for a softer center.)
Combine margarine, peanut butter and vanilla in a large bowl. I use an electric hand mixer to get the job done. Add powdered sugar a little bit at a time, mixing well. It should look kind of like pie crust dough.
Now's when you're gonna have to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. Heck, get the whole family to help. Sing Christmas carols while you roll the mixture into 3/4 - 1 inch balls.
Once they're rolled, you'll want to pop them in the freezer for at least an hour. I usually lay mine out on a parchment lined baking sheet.
For the chocolate coating, you will need:
1 - 12 oz package semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 oz paraffin (you can also use 1 1/2 tablespoons shortening, but I think the wax, gross as it may sound, gives better results)
Chop the wax
And melt with the chocolate. I use the microwave, thirty second increments, stirring after each one. Take it slow, otherwise you'll burn the chocolate. I speak from careless experience.
Once the chocolate is melted, I set the measuring cup in a bowl or pan of hot water so it will stay nice and thin. Otherwise it starts to cool and you won't get good results without nuking it again.
Once dipped, you can line the candies on some parchment or waxed paper, or you can use these cute little baking (mini-muffin) cups. They make them look so festive and easy for picking up. The biggest problem is choosing the design. They have so many cute ones out this time of year.
Let the dipping begin.
You can use a dipping tool or a fork, but for me, the easiest is a toothpick. The balls are frozen, so the pick holds nicely and the chocolate sets quickly.
Dip them into the chocolate, stopping just shy of the top, creating that chestnut look.
Here's my set up. Look at all those poor naked.... Ahem. Guess I'd better not finish that sentence.
Once they're all coated and nestled in their little beds, I like to store them in a Tupperware-type container, adding a sheet of parchment in between each layer, then store them in the freezer.
Then they're all ready whenever you need them. Grab as many as you like whenever you need them. You're guests will gobble them up. And you might too.
Tomorrow is my friend Drenda's annual cookie swap. That means the holiday baking is about to be in full swing. I'll let you know next week what I decide to take.
Until then...happy baking.